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Writer Lauretta Hannon with her favorite subversive, Leo Tolstoy.
Kate Sweeney / WABE

  Lauretta Hannon's favorite author of all time is Leo Tolstoy. She loves the Russian author's sprawling novels like "Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace."

But her favorite Tolstoy — the book that has sat dog-eared and bookmarked at her bedside for more than 20 years — is one not many people have heard of.

"A Calendar of Wisdom" was banned for decades after its publication in 1910, but Hannon says its nuggets of sagacity still inspire her day after day. In this installment of "Page-Turners," she talks about why.

Frank Knaack (cropped) /

If you have ever forgotten the title and author of a book, it can be an exhaustive process figuring out how to recover that information. From consulting with friends to heading to your local bookstore, results can vary.

On this installment of “Writer to Reader,” novelist Joshilyn Jackson looks at what it takes to rediscover a lost book.

.brioso. (cropped) /

Have you ever picked up a book, started reading and found that you simply couldn’t keep reading? Whether it is boring, full of jargon or just not your taste, sometimes a book cannot manage to keep your interest.

For best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson, it tends to be Russian novels.

“I can’t take even one more gentile female suicide caused by all those sad 'lady feelings' none of us weak-willed double-X’s can seem to manage in nineteenth-century Russia,” she says.

Kevin Rinker / WABE

Throughout the “City Lights with Lois Reitzes” series “Writer To Reader,” bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson has been taking listeners through the process of writing her book, “Origin Story.” With her deadline six months away, Jackson says she “can see that hazy outline of that tape across the finish line” but has stopped writing the book altogether.



If you’ve sat in Atlanta traffic, you’ve probably had an ambulance speed past you at some point, lights and sirens blaring. A new book by a former paramedic at Grady Hospital lets readers ride along.

Kevin Hazzard spent a decade driving an ambulance around the city, and he recounts some of his experiences in his memoir “A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back.”

Producer Myke Johns sat down with Hazzard to talk about the book.

What A Good Book Cover Communicates To The Reader

Jan 14, 2016
Sarah Browning /

Novelist Joshilyn Jackson says she doesn’t care whether or not she likes the cover of her books. She says pleasing the author “isn’t a book cover’s job," but instead “a good cover gets my potential reader to pick the book up.”

Jackson continues her look at how book covers work in this edition of “Writer To Reader” on “City Lights and includes a story about how the cover of her first published work came to be.

Finally, Jackson challenges listeners to go to their local bookstore and buy a book based on nothing but its cover.

Why Judging A Book By Its Cover Might Be A Good Idea

Jan 13, 2016
Niklas Morberg /

Decatur novelist Joshilyn Jackson thinks “don’t judge a book by its cover” are words to live by, “as long as you only apply it to things that aren’t books.”

On this installment of “Writer To Reader” for “City Lights”, Jackson gives her reasons why readers should judge books by their covers.

“The cover is how you get the spark of the idea that this might be the one for you today,” she said.

Jackson also goes over what it takes to create a good cover and gives examples. 

George Saunders explains the difference between his stories for adults and children: “With the kids, you were trying to comfort the oppressed, and with the adults, you were trying to oppress the comfortable.”
Chloe Aftel

George Saunders, best-known for writing spare, satirical short stories that pack a dark comedic punch, has written a children’s picture book.

Actually, he wrote it 15 years ago. Now, Random House has published a new edition of “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip,” the sly and funny tale for which Saunders collaborated with acclaimed illustrator Lane Smith – whom you may know from his illustrations for “The Stinky Cheese Man."

Saunders is in town this Saturday at A Cappella Books.

Jennifer Johnston

There's a song many kids in the South learn to help remember the spelling of “Mississippi.” It starts, “M… I… Crooked Letter… Crooked Letter… I” and continues on from there.

This little rhyme is the inspiration for the title of a new anthology that has nothing to do with folk songs or state names.

5 Bestselling Writers You May Not Have Heard Of

Nov 3, 2015
Library of Congress

A handful of popular women writers of 19th century America – such as Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe – continue to be widely taught and read. Others who were extremely well-known back then, for some reason or other, are today pretty much relegated to the history books.

Take Fanny Fern for instance.

Moshe Shair

In the surreal short stories of Etgar Keret, a man’s lies might come to life in a dreamlike world. Or a stranger might knock on your door, hold you at gunpoint, and refuse to leave until you've told him a story.

Jamie Iredell

Jamie Iredell’s latest book, "Last Mass," is a memoir that juxtaposes his own Catholic upbringing in California with that state's troubled colonial history.

Iredell is known for writing that's often self-aware and humorous in the way it plays with genre and form. So we thought it would be interesting to have him tell us a story about one of his favorite reads.  

His choice? A book he says he’s probably read more times than any other, except "Huckleberry Finn." It's Stephen King's "Pet Sematary."

As a musician, Kristin Hersh says Angier's "rhythm and melody...captures both sides of our brain at the same time."
Lena Moses-Schmitt

Great science writing is more than a dry explanation of the natural world around us.

It brings that world to life, using the literary tools that make readers care about the subject. Natalie Angier is widely credited with bringing a kind of poetry to her science writing — and, if Kristin Hersh is to be believed, a kind of music.

In this installment of Page-Turners, singer-songwriter Hersh explains why she loves Natalie Angier’s book “The Beauty of the Beastly.”

Amy Kiley on "The Rosie Project:" "As journalists, we always hear what someone tells us...and reading this book was an opportunity to get fully inside someone’s head."
Kate Sweeney / WABE

Amy Kiley is not only Atlanta’s “All Things Considered” host. She is also a founding member of the unofficial Public Broadcasting Atlanta staff book club.

Denis O'Hayer with three Pogo books from his collection
Kate Sweeney / WABE

Pogo is widely considered to be one of the greatest comic strips of all time. 

Running for 27 years, it had a voice, a mood and a look unlike anything that had appeared in the funny pages before, and it influenced a great many cartoonists who came after.

In this installment of Page-Turners, WABE’s Denis O’Hayer tells us about the first time he read Pogo — and what about it spoke uniquely to him. 

Julie Morstad / Chronicle Books

As a young girl, it was Laurel Snyder’s dream to be a ballerina. While she grew up instead to become an author of books for children, her forthcoming work, “Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova,” helps to fulfill that earlier dream just a little bit.

Pavlova was a ballet dancer in late-19th and early-20th century Russia who helped to bring the art form to audiences worldwide.

Kate Sweeney / WABE

Double lives take center stage in this installment of Page-Turners.

By day, Michelle Brattain is the chair of the history department at Georgia State University. But by night, she’s Hate Ashbury, hard-hitting co-captain of the Atlanta Rollergirls League.

Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman'
Charles W. Jones / WABE

It was a big day for many book lovers: the much-awaited release of Harper Lee's “Go Set a Watchman.” 

Late Monday night, people stood in line at Decatur bookstore Little Shop of Stories to wait for the release – precisely at midnight – of the novel.

The publisher, Harper-Collins, had required that booksellers not release the book until then, so Justin Colussy-Estes, the store’s inventory manager, watched the publisher’s website on a computer and counted down the seconds, with about 50 readers counting loudly with him.

Stephanie M. Lennox / WABE

Every time a child goes to their parents for help, it has something to do with money. Kids tend to get their allowances from their parents when they are doing chores for them or when they are on their best behavior, but what happens when the allowance runs out and the child doesn't have any money to put into their savings? 

That's the time when you bring in a young financial expert to the forefront to talk about ways to maintain economic responsibility.

Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer pose with Aisha Saeed, author of "Written In The Stars" and co-founder of
Brenna Beech / WABE

When school lets out for the summer, many students still have homework in the form of summer reading lists.

If an Atlanta author has her way, young people will have a much broader choice of reading material, including stories about children of color, children with special needs, and young people who speak different languages.

Writer Aisha Saeed is also cofounder of the group We Need Diverse Books. The organization was formed by a group of authors to address what they saw as a lack of diversity in reading material for children.

AJC Decatur Book Festival founder and executive director Daren Wang at the launch event for the 2015 festival at Leon's Full Service in Decatur, June 15.
Myke Johns / WABE

This coming Labor Day weekend, some 600 authors will gather for this year’s AJC Decatur Book Festival. Festival representatives, including Program Director Philip Rafshoon and Executive Director Daren Wang announced some of their plans for the festival yesterday, as the arts and literary press packed into Leon's Full Service in downtown Decatur to hear the news.

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, appears in Atlanta on May 27
Allan Amato

Chuck Palahniuk is noted by the Library of Congress as being a writer of “transgressional fiction,” and his two latest works do little to change that.

“Fight Club 2” and “Make Something Up,” a collection billed as “Stories You Can’t Unread,” are out now, and the author is making an appearance in Atlanta to celebrate the books' release.

Palahniuk spoke on the phone with WABE's Myke Johns about his latest offerings and about what makes him tick as a writer.

Gregory Wake /

Each week on "City Lights," we are joined by our mystery guest, Michele Ross, who is the crime fiction columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former book editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Keeping couples in mind in time for Valentine's Day, Ross reviews a book series featuring a pair of detectives. 

Michele Ross reviewed "The Bryant and May Mysteries" by Christopher Fowler

The Book Lover's Holiday Gift Guide

Dec 22, 2014
Flickr user top10things /

Just about every Monday, Daren Wang of the AJC-Decatur Book Festival joins us to talk about books. This time, instead of highlighting authors coming to town, we asked him to come up with a few holiday gifts for the book lovers among us. 

He came up with three gift ideas. The first two are books, "What I Came To Tell You" by Tommy Hays, "Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover In The Civil War" by Karen Abbott, and the third is a subscription to the Bitter Southerner book club.

Nina Subin

You may know Maureen Corrigan from the NPR program Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She’s the show’s book critic, known for her thoughtful, considered recommendations. Recently she told WABE’s Kate Sweeney about three of her all-time favorite books—all centered in the city where she grew up.

Before they got down to business, Kate began by asking Maureen Corrigan a little about her work on Fresh Air.

Two Short Web Bonuses

Maureen Corrigan’s Picks

For the writer and illustrator whose career spanned generations, the exhibit at the Breman features components for adult and child visitors alike.
William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

In this story we learn some very little known facts about the classic picture book "Where the Wild Things Are." Pioneering children’s writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak published his classic tale featuring young Max’s voyage to the magical land where he becomes king and leads the wild rumpus among the dreadful creatures there in 1963, although he actually began work on it years before. It's thrilled generations of children since. 

Bob AuBuchon /

The AJC-Decatur Book Festival's Daren Wang stopped by WABE studios to fill us in on the week in book events.

He highlighted an appearance from Robbin Shipp and Nick Chiles, out with their new book "Justice While Black," and also an event with Sandy Althomsons, author of "Inside A Refugee Crisis: My Time In South Sudan."

Reetika Nijhawan

Earlier this month, the students at Morris Brandon Elementary School took part in a book drive called 'Spread the Word'. The program was brought together by a former Morris Brandon student, 12 year-old Jahan Nijhawan.

Nijhawan thought it would be a good idea for kids to donate the books they love to other less fortunate kids right here in Atlanta. The elementary schoolers spent a week bringing their books to school and putting them in a large barrel. We recently visited Morris Brandon Elementary to find out more about the drive.

Bob AuBuchon /

Daren Wang of the AJC-Decatur Book Festival dropped by to share this week's upcoming literary events.

He highlighted readings with Bill Roorbach and George Weinstein and also pointed out that this weekend is Small Business Saturday.

Corrigan's book investigates "[t]he Great American novel we all think we've read, but really haven't." Maureen Corrigan appears at the Georgia Center for the Book Thursday, November 20 at 7:15 pm.
Little, Brown and Company

 In all likelihood, you were assigned the celebrated classic The Great Gatsby in a high school English class. The F. Scott Fitzgerald book is often referred to as the great American novel.  

So, how did this story—of a young Midwestern man who falls in with a group of jazz-age partiers, including the mysterious Jay Gatsby—become so revered, especially after experiencing dizzying critical and commercial failure when it was first published in 1925?